Some businesses using monitoring software to supervise at-home workers


Ray_LAC (Flickr)

Some businesses are monitoring their employees work from home with specialized software

Ole Olafson , Reporter

The coronavirus pandemic has forced almost everyone left with a job to work from home and many managers are turning to activity monitoring software to make sure their employees are actually working from home.

The tech review site “recode” recently reported that activity monitoring software producers like ActivTrac, Hubstaff, Teramind and Time Doctor have all seen dramatic increases in subscriptions since the pandemic began.  The programs can be as simple as requiring employees to log their own actions to recording and reporting every keystroke they make during a shift.

New York Times reporter Adam Satariano tried out employee-monitoring software from Hubstaff and reported on the experience yesterday.

Satariano reported that the software he was using took a screenshot every few minutes and recorded the websites he browsed or social media sites that he visited.  It interfaced with his phone’s GPS system to track his location and generated a productivity score, based on the percentage of time spent typing or moving the computer mouse.

His editor reported feeling uncomfortable looking over the intel that the software had gathered on her writer.  Also, they decided that the productivity score was irrelevant to their field of Journalism since reporting requires so much research and time contacting and interacting with sources to obtain accurate information.

According to The New York Times article, most employers do see a significant increase in productivity when they start using the software.  Most likely a direct result of workers knowing that they are being watched.  But software developers warn employers to use their products carefully.

“If you ignore employees’ right to privacy, you will risk legal ramifications, not to mention cultural rifts, loss of trust, and many other issues that will outweigh any security benefits you can achieve,” Isaac Kohen, Teramind’s vice president of research and development told recode. “It can cause employees to feel spied on or untrusted, two things that can erode a flourishing company culture. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Most workers do admit that the software causes them to be more productive than they might be otherwise, but many also agree that they don’t feel as imposed upon when the system allows them to log their own activities instead of the software reporting to their employer.